Abolished or Fulfilled?
The Mosaic Law in Relation to the New Covenant of Christ According to the Fathers of the Church
The entire scope of salvation history consists of Gods covenants with man. From
the covenant of creation to the covenants of Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and Christ, the
development of the plan of salvation can be traced since the Fall of Man. The relationship
between these covenants is at once both clear and obscure. Each covenant serves the same
basic purpose: to bring man into a deeper relationship with God. However, on a human
level, these covenants sometimes seem to be in conflict and even contradictory. Probably
the greatest example of this tension is between the Mosaic covenant and the covenant
instituted by Christ. After the establishment of this truly New Covenant, many
of the prescriptions of the old, Mosaic covenant were simply abolished by the Christians.
Yet, the institutor of the New Covenant, Jesus himself, says, "Think not that I have
come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill
them. For truly, I say to you, til heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot,
will pass from the law until all is accomplished" (Matt. 5:17-18). The
problem of the relationship between these covenants was an especially
important issue to the first Christians, who were in the process of becoming distinct from
Judaism, while still claiming continuity with Judaisms history, including the Mosaic
Law. The early church fathers were obliged to explain the true purpose of the Mosaic Law
as well as the relationship between the two covenants. The patristics would prove capable
of the task.
This paper will survey the beginnings of Christian thought regarding the Mosaic Law.
According to the Fathers of the Church, the Mosaic Law was not to be followed literally in
its entirety now that Christ had come. Although certain parts of the Law were still to
be applicable to daily Christian living, many parts, especially the ceremonial aspects,
were no longer to be regarded as binding. The justification for this division of the Law
and the declaration of its invalidity comes from the fathers belief as to the
original purpose of the Law. According to the Fathers of the Church, the original
purpose of the Law was twofold: first, it was a "divine accommodation" by
God on account of the Jews sinfulness, to lead them out of their sin and idolatry;
secondly, it was to prefigure the Christian covenant and the Christian life through
typology and allegory. Many of the fathers develop or emphasize one or both of these two
purposes, but many times they are simply intermingled without explanation. The twofold
purpose, however, combine to form the basis of the patristics explanations of the
ultimate purpose of the Mosaic Law in relation to the new covenant of Christ.
Foundations of Patristic Thought
Before delving into the depths of patristic belief, one must briefly examine the
foundation of the fathers thought, that is, Christ and the first Christians. The
later fathers were to defend their own beliefs about the Mosaic Law from the practice and
beliefs of Jesus and the first Christian community. Thus, it is necessary to first present
an overview of them before discussing the patristics.
As is recorded in the Gospels, Jesus himself does not formally renounce the practice of
the Mosaic Law. In fact, he states quite clearly, "Think not that I have come to
abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill
them" (Matt. 5:17). Clearly, he is more concerned with the interior attitude of the
Jew than with the actual, external practices of the Law. He strongly condemns those who
practice the minute parts of the Law while disregarding the "weightier things"
(cf. Matt. 23:23-24). This focus of his condemnations on the hypocrisy of those who
followed the external regulations while disregarding the internal precepts for which the
Law was made is much like that of many of the Old Testament prophets. However, Jesus
himself frequented the temple and participated in the ritual life of first century
Judaism, which does not seem to suggest that he called for an absolute abolishment of the
external practices. It is because of this ambiguity as to Jesus interpretation of
the Mosaic Law that debate among the Christians would later surface.
The Early Church(1)
The relation of Jesus to the Mosaic Law is continued by his first apostles. It is clear
from Acts that the first Christian community participated in daily attendance at the
Temple (Acts 2:46). However, this newly-founded community also immediately began to
distinguish itself from the rest of Judaism. This included, for example, meeting together
in their homes for the "breaking of the bread". Also, the story of Stephen shows
that the conflict that was to engulf the early church - whether Christians had to follow
the Mosaic Law - was already developing very early in the life of the Church. Apparently
Stephen was part of a group with strong Hellenist ties who denounced the practices of the
temple and renounced the Jews as a "stiff-necked people" (Acts 7:51). Although
the controversy seems to have died down somewhat after his stoning (at least as the author
of Acts tells it), this issue was to become the most divisive one for the Christians in
the first century. The conversion of Gentiles, especially in Antioch, and the preaching of
the Apostle Paul led to the question of the extent to which the new Gentile converts would
have to follow the rituals of the Mosaic Law. The result, as decided in the Council of
Jerusalem (c. 49 A.D.), was that although the Gentiles would have to "abstain from
the pollutions of idols and from unchastity and from what is strangled and from
blood" (Acts 15:19), they would not have to follow the ritual prescription of the
Law, most notably circumcision. Thus was the door permanently opened for Christianity to
become a universal religion.
The most prominent figure in all these deliberations was Paul (d. c.64), a Jew by
birth, who was to become the "Apostle to the Gentiles". Even after his
conversion he personally kept the Law (Acts 21:26), but he was most adamant about not
binding the new Gentile converts to the restrictions it contained. Two of his epistles, to
the Romans and to the Galatians, clearly put forth his belief in the relationship between
the old Law and the Gospel of Christ. As he states in his letter to the Galatians,
"the law was our custodian (paidagwgoV) until Christ came, that we might be justified by faith." (3:24) According
to Paul, the Law had existed to educate the people in preparation for the Gospel, and
therefore the ritual aspects of it were no longer necessary for the Gentile converts,
since "a man is not reckoned righteous by works of the law, but through faith in
Jesus Christ" (Gal. 2:16). This interpretation of his was to form the foundation upon
which the later Church Fathers would build in their own writings.
After Paul, one of the major documents that discussed the relationship that Christians
should have with the Jewish Law was the Epistle to the Hebrews (c. 67). This letter is
written to Jewish Christians, who had been possibly feeling a temptation to return to
Jewish practices, especially in a time of high nationalistic feelings directed against the
Roman Empire(2). Here the author clearly states the fulfillment of the Law by Christ, and
thus the elimination of the need to follow its prescriptions. "In Hebrews...the
system (of sacrificial law) was not condemned but shown to be wanting; ultimately only the
death of Christ truly fulfilled the purpose of the law."(3) This can be seen clearly
in Chapter 10 of this epistle:
For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form
of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices which are continually offered
year after year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased
to be offered? If the worshippers had once been cleansed, they would no longer have any
consciousness of sin. But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sin year after year.
For it is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins...But when
Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand
of God, then to wait until his enemies should be made a stool for his feet. For by a
single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. (10:1-4;12-14)
As one can observe then, the author of this letter does not discuss a punitive or
pedagogical reason for the sacrificial parts of the Mosaic Law, but instead simply
emphasizes their fulfillment in the ultimate sacrifice of Christ.
Shortly after the writing of Hebrews, the Fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the
Temple permanently altered Jewish-Christian relations, and therefore also affected was the
way in which the Christians interpreted the practicing of the Law. Following this decisive
split, the strength of the Judaizer movement in the Church began to diminish
significantly. This is not to say that there were not still groups calling for practicing
the Law. This Jewish Christian movement consisted of two divisions. One group felt that
all converts should follow the precepts of the Law, while the other only viewed the Mosaic
Law as applying to Jewish, not Gentile, Christians. The first group eventually became
heretical from orthodox Christianity. The second could have remained part of
the church; however, with the destruction of Jerusalem, the exodus to Pella, and the
martyrdom of James the Apostle, this group eventually disappeared.(4) The letters of
Ignatius of Antioch (c.110) and the Epistle of (Pseudo) Barnabas (c. 130) show the battle
between the church and those elements in the church that wanted to force all Christians to
practice the ritual aspects of the Law. In Ignatius letter to the Magnesians, he
states very clearly, "Do not be led astray by wrong views or by outmoded tales that
count for nothing. For if we still go on observing Judaism, we admit we never received
grace."(5) And then a little later, he definitively states the relationship between
Christianity and Judaism: "It is monstrous to talk Jesus Christ and to live like a
Jew. For Christianity did not believe in Judaism, but Judaism in Christianity."(6) So
it can be seen that Ignatius had to address those who professed Christ yet still perceived
a need to follow the ritual prescriptions of the Law. However, he states clearly that the
time of "Judaism" is over: now is the time for faith in Jesus. The Epistle of
Barnabas shows that a few decades later the problem is still plaguing the Church. This
strongly anti-Jewish letter proclaims definitively that all Christians should forsake the
ritual laws of the Jews. The author defends his argument by quoting the Old Testament
passages that emphasize the internal requirements of the Law.(7) Following the example of
Paul, he also shows the spiritual significance of the Law, and the ways in which different
elements of the Old Covenant are types of Christ and the New.(8) This type of
interpretation would become very popular with the Fathers. From both Ignatius and
Pseudo-Barnabas it is evident that although the Judaizing elements within the church had
not yet been eradicated, the Christians had become much more confident in proclaiming the
absolute abolishment of the ritual prescriptions of the Mosaic Law.
Written at approximately the same time as Pseudo-Barnabas, the Letter to Diognetus (c.
130) exhibits a different approach to the question of the Jewish Law, particularly with
respect to the sacrifices. The author is concerned with apologetics and answering the
charges of both the pagans and the Jews. First he ridicules the pagans for the
"stupidity of offering sacrifices to idols", but then he chides the Jews for
offering sacrifices to God "as if he needed them".(9) Further, he equates
the sacrifices of the Jews with the sacrifices of the pagans. He then ridicules the Jews
for boasting of their "mutilation of the flesh as a sign of their choice by
God"(10), an obvious reference to circumcision. This highly anti-Jewish and even
anti-Old Testament interpretation was not to be continued later by any of the Fathers,
who, after the attacks of Marcion, felt the need to distinguish the sacrifices of the Jews
commanded by the God of Jesus from the sacrifices of the pagans.
Following somewhat along the lines drawn out by Pseudo-Barnabas and the author of
"Diognetus", a major figure emerges in the 2nd Century with a radical
interpretation of the relationship between the Old and New Covenants. Marcion (active c.
140-160) introduced a complete separation between the Mosaic Law and the Gospel.
Claiming fidelity to Paul, Marcion laid stress on Pauls critique of the Mosaic
law and concluded (1) that the revelation that came in Jesus Christ is opposed to the
teaching of the Jewish Scriptures, (2) that the God of the New Testament is entirely other
than the God of Judaism, and (3) that therefore Christians must repudiate everything
associated with the Jewish law and everyone too close kindred with
Thus, the growing rejection of the practices of the Jews in the Christian community
came to a radical apex with Marcion: the god who ordered sacrifices and ordained the
Mosaic Law is actually a completely different god than the God of Jesus Christ. This
dualism, which was so prevalent in the Gnosticism of Marcions day, was to be
instrumental as the impetus for the church to set forth clearly the relationship between
the Mosaic Law and the New Covenant of Christ. Marcions beliefs and others like his
"struck at the very roots of the fundamental Christian conviction as to the
continuity of Gods revelation in Jesus of Nazareth with Gods earlier
revelations and actions as recorded in the Jewish Scriptures."(12) This challenge was
not to be unanswered.
Division of the Law
The Fathers of the Church were continually grappling with this major issue: why did
Christians, who claimed to believe in the God of the Old Testament, not follow the laws
and prescriptions set forth therein? This question was posed to orthodox Christians from
three different fronts: (1) from the Jews; (2) from heretical Christians; and (3) from the
pagans and each era of the patristic age saw pressure from at least one of them.
First, the Jews used to their advantage the fact that the Christians claimed that their
God was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in questioning the validity of the Christian
religion. For example, Justin Martyr records Trypho, the Jew, asking of him:
But this is what we are most at a loss about: that you, professing to be pious, and
supposing yourselves better than others, are not in any particular separated from them,
and do not alter your mode of living from the nations, in that you observe no festivals
or sabbaths, and do not have the rite of circumcision; and further, resting your hopes
on a man that was crucified, you yet expect to obtain some good thing from God, while you
do not obey His commandments. Have you not read, that that soul shall be cut off from his
people who shall not have been circumcised on the eighth day?(13)
To justify the continuity claimed by Christians between the Old and New Covenants, a
response to the Jews was necessary.
The second attack encountered by the fathers was one that had its source within the
Church. As has been previously discussed (see p. * above), a strong movement, led by Marcion, completely rejected the Old Testament
and all its commands. As this was a common feature of the larger Gnostic movement so
strong in the second century, orthodox Christians of that time felt the demand to respond.
Prospective Christians may have been unsure of the authority of the Old Testament,
especially the Mosaic Law, when they witnessed the battles that took place within the
Church over the proper interpretation of it.
Finally, relations between the early church and the pagans called for a defense of the
Christian relationship with the Mosaic Law. One of the first charges the pagans leveled
against the Christians was that their religion was a "new" and dangerous one.
The answer to this charge came from explaining the continuity between Judaism before
Christ and Christianity. Of course, it would then be necessary to clarify how the
differences between the two do not negate their intrinsic continuity. The pagan attack
thereby formed the final prong on the three levels of inquiry into the practice or
non-practice of the Law by the Christians.
This three-pronged charge created the setting in which the orthodox Christians had to
defend the continuity between the Mosaic Law and the Christian covenant. The first step in
responding to the three groups was the practice of dividing the Law into separate sets of
commandments. This consisted of claiming that there were differences between the various
commands listed in the Mosaic Law; these differences included (1) the author of a
particular regulation, (2) the permanence of a certain command, as well as (3) the
original reason for a specific law. The practice of dividing the Law was not unique to
Christians, however. Philo of Alexandria, a Jew of the first century A.D., divided the Law
between commands of God and those of Moses, claiming, however, that all of them were good
and should be obeyed.(14) The division made by the Christians, however, would take a more
The first such division comes from Justin Martyr (d. 165). In his Dialogue with
Trypho, he presents a tripartite division of the Mosaic Law.(15) This can be seen
clearly in Chapter 44:
...some injunctions were laid on you [the Jews] in reference to the worship of God and
practice of righteousness; but some injunctions and acts were likewise mentioned in
reference to the mystery of Christ, or on account of the hardness of your peoples
hearts (sklhrokardion tou laou umwn).(16)
Justin distinguishes three different types of commands to be found in the Mosaic Law.
The first are ethical commands that Justin believes must be followed and obeyed by all
men. The second are commands that are symbolic or prophetic of Christ, such as the
Passover lamb as a type (tupoV)
of Christ and the roasted lamb on crossed spits as a symbol (sumbolon) of Christ on the Cross (Dialogue 40)(17).
The final section of the Law is the most crucial in the debate with Trypho. It consists of
those commands that were instituted for the Jews hardness of heart (sklhrokardion). According to Justin, these
laws were temporary and are no longer to be followed due to the coming of Christ. This
third section will be discussed in more detail later in this paper.
Another typical division, probably the most popular with the patristics, is the
separation of the Law into two parts: (1) the moral requirements that have been retained
and amplified by Christ; and (2) the ceremonial commands which have come to an end with
Christ.(18) This division has a strong pedigree, being used by the likes of Irenaeus(19),
Tertullian(20), Origen(21), and the author of Apostolic Constitutions(22). The
first part usually consists of the Decalogue at the very least, but sometimes also
includes other moral commands. The second section of the Law, the ritual ceremonies, is
interpreted in a variety of ways by the Fathers. Sometimes it is seen to represent a law
that was promulgated after the incident of the golden calf, called the "second
law" (deuterwsiV), and it
is sometimes seen as more of a symbolic or prophetic type of law that foreshadowed Christ
and his sacrifice. Regardless of the interpretation, the notion that parts of the Law were
permanent and others temporary is a common belief among the fathers.
To say that the idea of dividing the Law was unvaried among the patristics, however,
would be incorrect. Many of the proponents of dividing the Law were members of the
allegorical school of Alexandria, but the more literal-based interpretive school of
Antioch consisted of a number of Fathers who did not feel that a division was appropriate
for any section of the Scriptures. Antiochs different hermanutical approach to
Scripture led them to see the Mosaic Law more in terms of "historical developments
and redemptive fulfilment".(23) As the greatest of the Antiocheans, John Chrysostom,
If a candle which gave light by night kept us, when it became day, from the sun, it
would not only not benefit, it would injure us. And so does the Law, if it stands between
us and greater benefits.(24)
Instead of viewing the Law in unequal parts of ceremonial and ethical commands, the
Antiocheans instead interpret the entire Law as being fulfilled in Christ. Of
course, it must be remembered that during the flourishing of the Antiochean school
(especially with Theodore of Mopsuestia, Theodoret of Cyrus, and Chrysostom) the issues
facing the Christian Church no longer consisted of defending the practices of Christians
compared to the Jews; instead, they concerned the Trinitarian and Christological debates
that consumed the 4th and 5th centuries. So instead of seeing the Law in various parts,
the Law is perceived as one of mans developmental steps toward the central figure in
history: Christ. Because of this, some of the Antiochean fathers do not even see any of
the Mosaic Law as applicable to Christians of their time, instead believing the Christian
need only follow the Gospel. According to Richard Longenecker, "Chrysostom was not
prepared to see the Mosaic law as an ethical guide for Christians."(25) Instead, with
the coming of Christ, the totality of the Law has been fulfilled in him, and there is no
need to divide it into two parts.
The next section will deal with the major interpretations of the Mosaic Law in relation
to Christ by the patristics. The divisions just discussed will be important as the basis
for most of the interpretations of the Fathers. It was necessary for the early Christians
first to acknowledge which of the laws were still to be kept and which were now to be
disregarded due to the advent of Christ. In general, most of the fathers regarded the
Decalogue as still applicable to Christians but the ritual commands no longer binding. The
invalidity of the ritual commandments was intrinsically related to the original purpose of
the Law. This is the area to which we shall turn next.
The Purpose of the Law
How, then, were the ritual commands of the Mosaic Law, such as animal sacrifice, to be
reconciled with the new, everlasting covenant of Christ? What was the original purpose of
these commands in the light of the new revelation of Christ? An attempt to answer the
first question was made early in the life of the church. Paul, the author of Hebrews, and
the author of Pseudo-Barnabas all endeavored to explain the meaning of the Mosaic Law now
that it had been fulfilled. However, the effort to address the second question was soon to
be tackled by the Church Fathers, starting with Justin, and following through Irenaeus,
Tertullian, Eusebius of Caesarea, and others. The various fathers offer multiple, and
sometimes contradictory, attempts to the problem. Underlying these solutions were two
major interpretive themes. The first is that of divine accommodation. By giving them the
ritual laws, God "accommodated" the Jews, because of their "hardness of
heart" and in order to lead them out of sin. In the other major theme, the predictive
and symbolic elements of the Law are emphasized. Typological, symbolic, or allegorical
interpretation would lead to an understanding of the Laws meaning. Some who took
this second position believed that even the Laws original purpose was symbolic: the
ancient Jews should have interpreted it allegorically and not literally. These
interpretations interact with and overlap each other, and individual fathers are prone to
move between the two: as we have seen, Justins division of the Law includes both of
these themes. Nonetheless, to understand the fathers view of the Mosaic Law, it is
necessary to examine both interpretations.
A discussion of a few early church fathers will provide an overview of the
pervasiveness of the idea of divine accommodation within the thought of the
patristics.(26) Justin, Irenaeus, Eusebius of Caesarea, and John Chrysostom all approach
this topic from different viewpoints and in different time periods, thus giving a good
sampling of how the idea of divine accommodation was used in interpreting the commands of
the Mosaic Law. Of these, Justin was the first to provide a somewhat systematic outline of
this approach, and his in-depth interpretation laid a foundation that was to be followed
by many other patristics.
As was already mentioned, Justins third division of the Law consists of
"injunctions [that] were laid on you...on account of the hardness of your
peoples hearts (sklhrokardion tou laou umwn)"(28) This idea of certain commands being a result of the Jews
hardness of heart has its foundation, of course, in the very words of Jesus.
When asked about the law of divorce, he answers, "For your hardness of heart (sklhrokardian umwn) Moses allowed you to
divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so." (Matt. 19:8) Although
never quoting this statement of Christs directly, Justin almost certainly knew it,
and thus uses it as the basis of his argument. In fact, this third section of the Law
forms the core of his argument with Trypho over the purpose of the Law. Justin states the
stubborn disposition of the Jews as the very reason for at least the ritual prescriptions
of the Law. For example, in Chapter 18 he states, "For we [the Christians] too would
observe the fleshly circumcision, and the Sabbaths, and in short all the feasts, if we
did not know for what reason they were enjoined you, - namely, on account of your
transgressions and the hardness of your hearts."(29) Although Justin also sees a
typological and allegorical reason for the Law, the one upon which he heavily relies in
explaining the ultimate purpose of the Law is his third division - Gods
accommodation to the hardness of the Jews hearts.(30)
Why did God need to accommodate Himself to the Jews? Justin explains this in his Dialogue
by separately discussing the three major parts of the ritual commandments: the Sabbath
rest, fasting and abstention of foods, and animal sacrifices (cf. Dialogue 19-22).
Circumcision is not included since it was instituted before Moses.(31) First, God ordained
the Sabbath "on account of your unrighteousness, and that of your fathers".(32)
The Jews could not retain a "memorial of God"(33), so God instituted the Sabbath
in order for them to be able to keep God in their thoughts. God knew the evil inclination
of Israel to forget Him, so the Sabbath was commanded, not as a work of righteousness, but
rather as a result of the Jews "unrighteousness".
Justin sees the command of fasting and abstention of certain foods in much the same
light. He states, "you were commanded to abstain from certain kinds of food, in order
that you might keep God before your eyes while you ate and drank, seeing that you were
prone and very ready to depart from His knowledge..."(34) Israel, even after
seeing the miracle of Gods providence in the manna, still refused to follow Him and
instead worshipped a golden calf. Thus, God, according to Justin, had to enjoin on them
certain dietary prescriptions to remind them that God is the provider of all food, thus
creating a yoke to keep their eyes on Him.
In Chapter 22 of the Dialogue, Justin sets forth the purpose behind the command
for the Jews to offer animal sacrifices to God. At the heart of Gods
problem was Israels constant inclination toward idolatry. This charge
Justin uses most frequently against the Jews.(35) It is the key reason that God ordered
animal sacrifices: He had to accommodate Israels inclination to idolatry by changing
the focus of their sacrifices from false Gods to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.(36)
The center of this charge of idol-worship is the incident with the Golden calf. As Justin
...until Moses, under whom your nation appeared unrighteous and ungrateful to God,
making a calf in the wilderness: wherefore God, accommodating Himself to that nation,
enjoined them also to offer sacrifices, as if to His name, in order that you might not
The enactment of the ritual commands of the Mosaic Law, according to Justin, was due to
the sinfulness and stubbornness of the Jews - especially in their continual inclination
for idolatry - as is preeminently witnessed in the incident of the Golden calf.
The underlying argument that Justin is advancing in explaining the original purpose of
the Law is the current invalidity of the Law. His reason for positing this argument is to
counter Tryphos original point, which is the Christians lack of following the
Law. Justin, however, is convinced that after the coming of Christ, major parts of the Law
are no longer necessary. To support this claim, he hearkens back to the time before Moses,
when the ancient Jews were not bound to the ritual commands (except circumcision).(38)
Thus, Justin believes that the Law enacted by Moses was a temporary one. If this was not
the case, then either God changes or the God of the righteous before Moses was a different
god: conclusions Justin finds absurd.(39) Due to the late entry of the Law into salvation
history, Justin concludes that it was clearly meant originally to be temporary. Thus, the
coming of Christ invalidates this temporary Law.
Trypho perceives a problem with this argument: if the Law was to be temporary, and
Christ has now made it invalid, why did Jesus himself follow its ritual commands?(40) The
answer to this, according to Justin, is again divine accommodation:
I have admitted it [that Jesus followed the ceremonial law of Moses], and do admit it:
yet I have admitted that He endured all these not as if He were justified by them, but
completing the dispensation (oikonomia) which His Father, the Maker of all things, and Lord and God, wished Him [to
Just as part of Gods oikonomia was that He ordained that sacrifices were necessary for the Jews for a time, so
also part of that accommodating plan included that Jesus himself would submit to the
ritual prescriptions of the Law. In fact, in the Dialogue, immediately after
admitting of Christs observance of the Law, Justin fires back at Trypho to answer
whether or not the righteous before Moses were saved although they did not follow the
prescriptions of the Law, thus reemphasizing the Laws temporary nature.(42)
Christ, then, according to Justin, is the Law (nomoV).(43) He uses Old Testament texts that predict the
coming of a new law and applies them to Jesus himself (e.g. Is.51:4-5; Mic. 4:1-7; Ps.
18:8 [LXX]).(44) Justin contrasts the former law as the Old Law (palaioV nomoV)(45) as well as a temporary one
with Christ as the New Law (kainoV nomoV) and the Eternal Law (aiwnioV
nomoV).(46) The Mosaic Law was never meant to be installed
permanently, as can be seen from the Old Testament itself, and the predictions contained
there point to the new covenant which Justin sees fulfilled in Christ for all
Other Church Fathers
Justin was the first of the Fathers to write extensively on the concept of divine
accommodation in relation to the Mosaic Law. His viewpoint is a good example of how the
Fathers attempted to explain this relationship. After him, this concept became ingrained
in the thought of many of the patristics. Although it is beyond the scope of this paper to
discuss in detail all of the major fathers, a brief overview of a few of them would do
well to show other perspectives apart from Justin. Each of the fathers selected present a
different situation in which accommodation in regards to the Mosaic Law is used. Justin,
as we have seen, was writing to a Jewish (as well as pagan) audience; Irenaeus is
concerned about refuting the Gnostic heresy; Eusebius is writing in the period of the
early Churchs greatest triumph, the rise and conversion of Constantine; and John
Chrysostom uses accommodation in the era of the great Trinitarian and Christological
Immediately following Justin, not only chronologically, but also to some extent in
thinking, Irenaeus (d. c.198) also discusses the relationship between the Old Covenant and
the New. His Against Heresies is a monumental work directed against the strong
Gnostic movement of his time. Since the Gnostics denied the continuity between the two
testaments, Irenaeus sets forth in book 4 of Against Heresies his refutation by
explaining their relationship and ultimate continuity.
Like Justin, Irenaeus views the ancient Jews as heavily prone to idolatry. Because of
this, God employed the Law as an educational tool to focus the Jews back to Him.(47)
Irenaeus recognizes in the Decalogue certain universal precepts that all men must still
follow, but the ritual aspects of the Law are no longer necessary since Christ had
fulfilled the Law. As Irenaeus states:
For God at the first, indeed, warning them by means of natural precepts, which from the
beginning He had implanted in mankind, that by means of the Decalogue (which, if any one
does not observe, he has no salvation), did then demand nothing more of them....But when
they turned themselves to make a calf, and had gone back in their minds to Egypt, desiring
to be slaves instead of freemen, they were placed for the future in a state of servitude
suited to their wish, which did not indeed cut them off from God, but subjected them to
the yoke of bondage...(48)
The Jews, according to Irenaeus, were so prone to idolatry (that began in Egypt) that
God had to accommodate them with additional precepts beyond the Decalogue so that they
would not fall away from Him. This came to predominate patristic thought: the sojourn in
Egypt by the Jews lead to their evil inclinations which God had to slowly extract from
them. Against the Gnostic dichotomy Irenaeus explains the intrinsic relationship between
the actions of God in the Old Covenant and His actions in the New.
Eusebius of Caesarea
Whereas Justin and Irenaeus are good representatives of the pre-Nicene Church, Eusebius
of Caesarea (d. c.340) gives a helpful glimpse of the Church of the Nicene years. Eusebius
lived in an era that he considered one of the greatest in Church History - the conversion
of the Roman Empire - and he views all of salvation history as leading up to this great
moment. One of his writings, The Proof of the Gospel, written about 317 is
Eusebius explanation of the theological and historical relationship between Judaism
and Christianity, in which he explains his interpretation of the purpose of the Mosaic
True to his historical leanings, Eusebius divides the story of salvation into three
separate periods: before the Law, the time of the Law, and after the Law (the time of
Christ).(49) The coming of the Messiah was not the beginning of a new age, but a return to
the pre-Mosaic times. As other Fathers both before and after him, Eusebius stresses the
fact that the righteous before Moses did not need to keep the Law. However, in the time of
Moses it was necessary:
For the old covenant was given as a law to the Jews, when they had fallen from the
religion of their forefathers, and had embraced the manners and life of the Egyptians, and
had declined into the errors of polytheism, and the idolatrous superstitions of the
However, unlike Justin and Irenaeus, who saw the Law as having a punitive nature,
Eusebius interprets it differently. He continues the above statement:
It [the Mosaic Law] was intended to raise up the fallen, and to set on their feet those
who were lying on their faces, by suitable teaching.(51)
The Law, therefore, had a positive role to play, not a punitive one. It was to lead the
idolatrous Jews away from their sins and to the true God. But this Law only had a
temporary task to fulfill; after it had accomplished it, Eusebius concludes in agreement
with the other Fathers, the time came for it to be abolished. With the coming of Christ,
humanity was to return to the "Old" law that existed before Moses.(52) The
abolishment of the Mosaic Law and the return to the pre-Mosaic law is proven by the
destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.:
...the Romans besieged Jerusalem, and destroyed it and the Temple there. At once the
whole of the Mosaic law was abolished, with all that remained of the old covenant...and
the archetypal holiness of the pre-Mosaic men of God reappeared.(53)
The Mosaic Laws role in salvation history was to lead the Jews out of their
idolatry, but now that the pre-Mosaic time had returned, it no longer had any meaning, and
therefore was abolished.
Living during the height of the Trinitarian and Christological controversies, the
"Father of Accommodation", John Chrysostom (d. c.407), also found himself
engaged in much anti-Jewish polemic. Thus, he is quite concerned with the original purpose
of the Mosaic Law, its relationship to Christ, and the (in)validity of it in his time. In
his Against the Jews, he considers one of the most important aspects of the Mosaic
Law: animal sacrifices.
Chrysostom argues that God did not originally want sacrifices. However, when He saw
that the Jews were so intent on offering them (in fact, they already had done so), He does
allow the sacrifices in condescension (sugkatabainon) to their infirmity.(54) However, part of Gods plan was always eventually
to end the need for sacrifices. To explain this, Chrysostom uses an illustrative analogy:
Suppose a physician sees a man who is suffering from fever and finds him in a
distressed and impatient mood. Suppose the sick man has his heart set on a drink of cold
water and threatens, should he not get it, to find a noose and hang himself....The
physician grants his patient the lesser evil, because he wishes to prevent the greater
evil and to lead the sick man away from a violent death....After he has given into the
patients craving, he gets a drinking cup from his home and gives instructions to the
sick man to satisfy his thirst from this cup and no other. When he has gotten his patient
to agree, he leaves secret orders with the servants to smash the cup to bits; in this way
he proposes, without arousing the patients suspicion, to lead him secretly away from
the craving on which he has set his heart....Let me make the analogy clear. The physician
is God, the cup is the city of Jerusalem, the patient is the implacable Jewish people, the
drink of cold water is the permission and authority to offer sacrifices.(55)
God did not want the Jews to sacrifice, but like a good physician he gave the Jews the
best overall prescription in order to lead them away from their sinful inclinations.
Writing during the great Christological debates, Chrysostom relates this practice of
divine condescension to the Incarnation. If Christ had come other than in the
fullness of time, his lessons would have come to naught. God had to wait until
humanity was properly prepared for Christs message before He could send him.(56) In
fact, in the eyes of Chrysostom, all of Gods actions and communications involve in
some form accommodation.(57) We see in Chrysostom a heavy dependence on divine
condescension, but this is merely the culmination of the deeply ingrained thought of the
Fathers: God, due to our sinful humanity, must accommodate Himself in order to help man on
his way to salvation.
Developing simultaneously in patristic thought with the concept of divine accommodation
(particularly in the Alexandrian school) was the interpretive theme that viewed the Mosaic
Law and most of the Pentateuch in terms of either allegory or prefigurement of Christ.
These two themes should not be seen as mutually exclusive of one another; rather, one can
observe that many of the fathers integrated divine accommodation and allegory/typology
into a holistic interpretive approach. Therefore, it will be helpful to get an overview of
a few of the fathers use of the allegorical or typological method as applied to the
The use of allegory to interpret the Mosaic Law did not originate with Christianity; it
was already in use by Jewish interpreters. Although of course only the Christians saw the
Law as prefiguring Christ, seeing commands of the Law in an allegorical fashion was common
to both Jews and Christians. For example, Philo, in On The Special Laws, considers
circumcision to be a symbol (sumbolon).(58) This is not to say that Philo did not also call for the literal practicing
of the Law, including circumcision; he simply saw more than one intended meaning within
The use of allegory as well as typology in Christian thought has its beginnings in the
New Testament itself, especially with Paul. For example, in Galatians 4:21-31 Paul makes
explicit use of allegory (verse 24: atina estin
allhgoroumena) in his comparison of life under the Law and life in
Christ. And in Romans 5:14, he expressly calls Adam a type (tupoV) of Christ. This scriptural use of allegory and
typology would be later imitated extensively by the Church Fathers. The Epistle of
Barnabas is the first post-New Testament example of this great dependence upon these two
interpretive forms. In Chapters 7 and following, Pseudo-Barnabas explains in-depth the
typological or "spiritual" meaning behind many of the Mosaic commands, thus
bolstering his argument on the invalidity of the Law.
From this foundation the patristics use allegory and typology in a variety of manners.
These two constitute either the original purpose of the Law or the purpose of the Law now
that Christ had fulfilled it, or both. Most Church Fathers believe that the ancient Jews
were justified in following the literal prescriptions of the Mosaic covenant, but even
this at times is implicitly disputed. Among the fathers who emphasize the
"spiritual" aspects of the Law, the only clear consensus was that now that
Christ had come, many parts of the Law are to be seen simply as an allegory for the moral
life or as a typological prediction of the Messiah.(59) An overview of a few of the
Fathers will give a good example of this view of the Mosaic Law in relation to the
Christian covenant. Of the fathers who use this methodology, the Alexandrian fathers,
especially Clement and Origen, are the most explicit in their emphasis on the
"spiritual" or allegorical sense of the Mosaic dispensation. However, after the
victory of Christianity and the ensuing Trinitarian controversies, the use of typology in
interpreting the Mosaic Law has a different emphasis. The examples of Anthanasius and
Basil will do well to show this new emphasis.
Allegory in the Alexandrian School
Clement of Alexandria (d. c.214) is the first teacher of the Alexandrian interpretive
school with extant writings. This schools dependence upon Philo and its strong use
of allegory is exemplified well in Clements works. Clement held that mankind was
gradually being educated, both through the revelation received by the Jews and through the
philosophy of the Greeks.(60) The purpose of the Law in this divine plan was to prepare
the way for Christ as well as to police the Jews sinful impulses.(61) As has been
mentioned, the former idea is later continued by the likes of Eusebius of Caesarea.
According to Clement, however, the Jews only saw the Law in the latter purpose, and not
also as a prophet: "They [the Jews] had no faith in the prophetic power of the Law.
They followed the bare letter, not the inner meaning; fear not faith....the end of the
Law...is Christ, the Christ who is prophesied by the Law."(62) Clement, however, did
not believe the Jews should not have kept even the moral aspects of the Law literally,
but, inconsistently, he also chastises the Jews for only keeping the "bare
letter", and not understanding the spiritual significance of the Law. The chief value
of the Law, then, according to Clement, is its prediction of Christ and its moral
principles. Both typology and allegory are used by him to explain these important
elements. By his strong emphasis on the more important spiritual meaning of the Law as its
ultimate purpose, Clement nearly seems to condemn the literal following of the Law by the
None of the patristics, however, are as seeped in the allegorical tradition as much as
Clements successor, Origen (d. c.254). This 3rd century giant uses the allegorical
approach with unprecedented frequency. Although Origen was imbued deeply with the Philonic
tradition of Alexandria, in Contra Celsum he defends his use of spiritual exegesis
on Pauls Hagar-Sarah allegory in Galatians 4:21-31.(63) The conclusions he reaches
through his allegorical approach are sometimes extreme, yet an overview of his use of this
method will be useful for understanding this approach.
In interpreting any of the Scriptures, Origen saw three possible levels of meaning,
corresponding to the division of body, soul, and spirit. Each of these three levels had a
certain importance to the believer, and the levels are necessary for the varying levels of
spirituality that exist among believers. The truly spiritual man, however, will interpret
the Scriptures (and thus also the Mosaic Law) in a totally spiritual manner, allegorizing
and using typology to find the true meaning of commands and prescriptions. Origens
heavy emphasis on the allegorical meaning of the Law led him, like Clement, to come close
to denying the legitimacy of a literal observance, even for the ancient Jews. For example,
Origen identifies Pauls contrast between the letter that kills and the
spirit that gives life with a literal and an allegorical interpretation of the
Law.(64) The old laws were simply a shadow or a type, which were fulfilled with the coming
of Christ. Origen, true to his nature, defends his somewhat radical allegorical approach
by the use of an allegory. He states the breaking of the first law by Moses represents
that the literal following of the Law was eventually to be broken; the second law that
followed represents the superior allegorized Law.(65)
An example of Origens explanation of the Sabbath aspect of the Law portrays well
his overall interpretation. Origen states that the law of the Sabbath was impossible to
keep literally at any time, thus a strict observance of it was always misguided. The two
specific prescriptions that Origen singles out as impossible are "Abide ye every man
in his place, let no man go out of his place on the seventh day" (Exodus 16:29) and
"take heed to yourselves, and bear no burden on the Sabbath day" (Jeremiah
17:21). Origen claims that these two observances have always been impossible to obey, and
were always meant to be seen spiritually.(66) Of course, this argument does not really
attack the heart of the Jewish interpretation, since the Jews themselves interpreted
place and burden somewhat liberally, but it shows the methodology
Essentially, the Law, according to Origen, had been a preparation for the Gospel.
Origen borrows imagery from Melito of Sardis to explain the relationship between the two:
Just as those whose craft it is to make tokens from copper and to pour statues, before
they produce a true work of copper or of silver or of gold, first form figures from clay
to the likeness of the figure image - certainly the model is necessary but only until the
work that is principal be completed, but when that work on account of which that image was
made of clay is completed, its use is no longer sought - understand also something like
this in these things which were written or done in a type and in a figure of
the future in the Law and Prophets.(68)
Now that the figure has served its purpose, the time for it is passed, as is shown by
the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. However, Origen himself states that many
Christians of his time still followed some of the Law literally. He notes three different
attitudes toward the Law held by his contemporary Christians:
(1) those who interpret the Law spiritually and therefore have abrogated it;
(2) those who interpret the Law spiritually but still observe the precepts; and
(3) those who do not interpret the Law spiritually, but believe that Christ is predicted
therein and keep the Law literally.(69)
The first group is viewed by Origen to be the most spiritual of the Christians, and the
mention of the third group shows that there still existed a significant number of Jewish
Christians in the 3rd century. In general, Origen sees only some of the moral precepts of
the Law as still binding on all Christians, and the rest as only useful in their
Typology in the Trinitarian Controversies
After the victory of Christianity over the Roman Empire, the church began to debate
within itself the divinity and relationships of the three persons of the Trinity. This new
debate changed the context in which the Mosaic Law was discussed. The defenders of the
divinity of Christ as well as the Holy Spirit, in order to bolster their claims, use the
Old Law in a typological fashion to prove their arguments. The two greatest defenders,
Athanasius (in regard to Christ) and Basil (the Holy Spirit), demonstrate this new
The defense of the Incarnation, God becoming Man, was the all-consuming passion of
Athanasius (d. 373). He spent his life attempting to prove to all - Jews, Greeks, and
heretics - the divinity of Christ. To defend the Incarnation against the Jews, Athanasius
uses the Hebrew Scriptures to show how they predicted the coming and divinity of the
Messiah, and how this was fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth. This interpretation includes the
Mosaic Law. In chapters 33 through 40 of Incarnation of the Word, Athanasius
reveals how all of the Old Testament, including the Mosaic commands, predicted his coming
both explicitly and in type.(70) Athanasius is also concerned about showing how the Law is
but a shadow, instituted to prepare men for the Incarnation. He does this by weaving
together the ideas of the Law as a prefigurement and the Law as necessity due to the sins
of the Jews. In his 19th Festal Letter (Easter 347) he writes,
Now it appears to me...that not at first were the commandment and the law concerning
sacrifices, neither did the mind of God, Who gave the law, regard whole burnt-offerings,
but those things which were pointed out and prefigured by them. For the law
contained a shadow of good things to come. And, Those things were appointed
until the time of reformation....But they chose to serve Baal, and dared to offer
sacrifices to those that have no existence...then indeed, after the law, that commandment
concerning sacrifices was ordained as law; so that..they might turn to Him who is truly
God...Thus then, being...instructed and taught [to sacrifice to the Lord], they learned
not to do service to any one but the Lord. They attained to know what time the shadow
should last, and not to forget the time that was at hand, in which no longer should the
bullock of the herd be a sacrifice to God, nor the ream of the flock, nor the he-goat, but
all these things should be fulfilled in a purely spiritual manner..."(71)
Athanasius thus interprets the command to sacrifice being instituted both to strip the
Jews of their evil inclinations as well as a prediction and preparation of the spiritual
sacrifice of the Christian. Christ is the ultimate fulfillment of the Law, which was to
educate the Jews as being a figure of things to come.
Basil the Great (d. 379) followed Athanasius defense of the divinity of Christ
with his own masterful apology for the divinity of the Holy Spirit. One of the arguments
that Basil uses for the divinity of the Holy Spirit is that Christians are baptized with
the Trinitarian formula, which makes all three equal and all divine. The response to Basil
is that some were "baptized into Moses" (I Cor. 10:2) but Moses is not divine.
Basil replies in On the Holy Spirit, chapter 14. Quite simply, according to Basil:
Our answer is that the faith in the Spirit is the same as the faith in the Father and
the Son; and in like manner, too, the baptism. But the faith in Moses and in the cloud is,
as it were, in a shadow and a type. the nature of the divine is very frequently
line of the types; but because divine things are prefigured by small and human things, it
is obvious that we must not therefore conclude the divine nature to be small. The type is
an exhibition of things expected, and gives an imitative anticipation of the future.(72)
Basil then continues by giving examples of types that are to prefigure Christ: the
manna, blood of the sheep, the firstborn, and others. Basil forcefully explains that the
type is to prefigure the antitype, and to put your belief in both equally is foolishness.
The type by itself can give nothing, and eternal life is only possible by its fulfillment,
which is Christ. "What spiritual gift is there through Moses? What dying of sins is
there? Those men did not die with Christ; wherefore they were not raised with
Him."(73) Basil stresses the importance of seeing the Mosaic Law as only a
shadow, but to put ones trust in the fulfillment of the shadow.
The Trinitarian controversies gave the Church a new opportunity to interpret the Mosaic
Law in light of the coming of Christ and the revelation of the Trinity. This new situation
lead a number of the fathers, especially Athanasius and Basil, to emphasize more clearly
the Law not only as having been instituted for the sins of the Jews, but also as a
prefiguring, a shadow and a type of greater things to come.
From its very beginning, the Church was aware of the tension that existed between the
Mosaic covenant and the new covenant that they proclaimed in Christ. Ultimately, how
binding was the Mosaic Law to the new believer in Christ? If the code of the Mosaic Law
was no longer to be followed, what was its original purpose? From its inception, the
church grappled with these issues in an attempt to harmonize the message of the Mosaic Law
with the message it proclaimed. The extremes consisted of the Judaizer movement on one
hand and the Gnostics on the other. The church took the middle road between these two
ends. The fathers present clearly and bluntly the original purpose of the Law and the use
of it in the Christian community. The fulfillment of the Law by Christ, who was predicted
by it, has led to the abolishment of many of the precepts that it contained. The Mosaic
Law was always meant to be a temporary one, and the coming of the Messiah and the
destruction of the Temple show conclusively that its time is over. Although the moral
commands of the Decalogue are still to be obeyed by all men, the Law now shows, in its
predictive element, the divine dispensation that was always planned to be culminated in
Christ. Christians can see how God, in His divine oikonomia, predicted the ending of the Law from its inception: its precepts are types for
the covenant that will bring the literal following of it to an end.
Now before faith came, we were confined under the law, kept under restraint until faith
should be revealed. So that the law was our custodian until Christ came, that we might be
justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a custodian; for
in Christ Jesus you are all Sons of God, through faith. (Gal. 3:23-26)
(1) Much of the information of this historical section comes from Thomas
Bokenkotter, A Concise History of the Catholic Church (New York: Image Books,
(2) cf. Frances M. Young, The Use of Sacrificial Ideas in Greek Christian
Writers from the New Testament to John Chrysostom (Cambridge, MA: The Philadelphia
Patristic Foundation, Inc., 1979), 82-83.
(3) Ibid., 82.
(4) Robert Wilde, The Treatment of the Jews in the Greek Christian Writers of
the First Three Centuries (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press,
(5) Ignatius of Antioch, To the Magnesians, 8.1. [Cyril C. Richardson,
Th.D., D.D., trans. and ed. "Letter of Ignatius to the Magnesians", Early
Christian Fathers (New York: Collier Books, 1970), 96].
(6) Ibid., 10.3 .
(7) Epistle of Barnabas, Chp. 2-3; quoting Isa. 1:11-14; Jer. 7:22; Isa.
58:4-5. [Alexander Roberts D.D. and James Donaldson, LL.D, eds. "Epistle of
Barnabas", Anti-Nicene Fathers. Vol. 1, The Apostolic Fathers, Justin
Martyr, Irenaeus (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 1994) 138].
(8) Ibid., Chp. 10ff. [143ff.].
(9) Letter to Diognetius, 3.4. [Richardson, "The So-Called Letter to
(10) Ibid., 4.4 .
(11) Richard N. Longenecker, "Three Ways of Understanding Relations between
the Testaments: Historically and Today," Tradition and Interpretation in the New
Testament, edited by Gerald F. Hawthorne with Otto Betz. (Grand Rapids, MI: William B.
Berdmans Publishing Company, 1987), 22-23; citing Tertullian, Adv. Marc. 5.3.1.
(11) Ibid., 23.
(12) Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, Chp. 10 (emphasis added).
[Roberts, "Dialogue with Trypho, A Jew", 199].
(13) Philo, "Life of Moses", Book II, 188, translated by F.H. Colson,
M.A. The Loeb Classical Library, "Philo VI", T.E. Page and others, eds.
(Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1966), 543: "Now I am fully aware that all
things written in the sacred books are oracles delivered through Moses; but I will confine
myself to those which are more especially his, with the following preliminary remarks. Of
the divine utterances, some are spoken by God in His own person with His prophet for
interpreter, in some the revelation comes through question and answer, and others are
spoken by Moses in his own person, when possessed by God and carried away out of himself."
(14) This division is first presented and explained by Theodore Stylianopoulos, Justin
Martyr and the Mosaic Law, (Missoula, Montana: Scholars Press, 1975), 51-68.
(15) Justin, Chp. 44 .
(16) cf. Stylianopoulos, 59.
(17) cf. Longenecker, 26.
(18) Irenaeus of Lyons, Against Heresies, 16.4-5 [Roberts, "Against
Heresies", 482]: "...the Lord Himself did speak in His own person to all alike
the words of the Decalogue; and therefore, in like manner, do they remain permanently
with us, receiving by means of His advent in the flesh, extension and increase, but
not abrogation. The laws of bondage, however, were one by one promulgated to the people by
Moses, suited for their instruction or for their punishment....These things, therefore,
which were given for bondage, and for a sign to them, He canceled by the new covenant
of liberty." (emphasis added)
(19) Tertullian, De Pud 6.3-5; cited in Longenecker, 32.
(20) Origen, Commentary on Romans 8:3 and 11:6; cited in Longenecker, 32..
(21) Apostolic Constitutions, 2.4; [Roberts, "Constitutions of the
Holy Apostles", Anti-Nicene Fathers, vol. 7 Lactantius, Venantius,
Asterius, Victorinus, Dionysius, Apostolic Teaching and Constitutions, 2 Clement, Early
Liturgies, 397]: "But, above all, let him [the bishop] carefully distinguish
between the original law and the additional precepts (deuterwsiV), and show which are the laws for believers, and which the bonds for the
unbelievers, lest any should fall under those bonds." This quote is taken from the
section of Constitutions that is basically a copy of the Didascalia Apostolorum,
a third century Syrian document claiming to be of apostolic origins; cf. R. Hugh Connolly,
ed, Didascalia Apostolorum, (Oxford, 1929).
(22) Longenecker, 27.
(23) John Chrysostom, Commentary on Galatians (on Gal. 3:25-26). [Philip
Schaff, D.D., LL.D., ed. "Homilies on the Epistles of St. Paul the Apostle to the
Galatians and Ephesians", Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series 1, Vol. 13, Chrysostom:
Homilies on Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Thessalonians, Timothy, Titus,
and Philemon (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 1994), 29].
(24) Longenecker, 27.
(25) An in-depth study of this topic is to be found in Stephen D. Benin, The
Footprints of God: Divine Accommodation in Jewish and Christian Thought, (Albany:
State University of New York Press, 1993), esp. Chps. 1-3.
(26) A comprehensive treatment of Justins interpretation of the Mosaic Law
can be found in Stylianopoulos, Justin Martyr and the Mosaic Law.
(27) Justin, Chp. 44 .
(28) Ibid., Chp. 18 (emphasis added) ; cf. Chps. 46 & 67.
(29) cf. Stylanopoulos, 132.
(30) cf. Justin, Chp. 19 [203-204].
(31) Ibid., Chp. 21 .
(32) Ibid., Chp. 19 .
(33) Ibid., Chp. 20 (emphasis added) .
(34) cf. Stylianopoulos, 148.
(35) cf. Justin, Chp. 22 [205-206]; also Chps. 19, 43, 67, 92
(36) Ibid., Chp. 19 .
(37) cf. Ibid., Chp. 23 . Justin discusses the original purpose of
circumcision in Chp. 19.
(38) cf. Ibid.
(39) cf. Ibid., Chp. 67 [231-232].
(40) Ibid., Chp. 67 .
(41) cf. Ibid., Chp. 67 [231-232].
(42) cf. Ibid., Chp. 11 [199-200].
(43) cf. Stylianopoulos, 81.
(44) cf. Justin, Chps. 11,12 [199-200].
(45) cf. Ibid., Chp. 11 [199-200].
(46) Benin, Footprints of God, 5.
(47) Irenaeus, Book 4, Chp. 15 .
(48) cf. Eusebius, The Proof of the Gospel, trans. and edited by W.J.
Ferrar (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1981) 1.6.17.
(49) Eusebius, 1.6.8.
(50) Eusebius, 1.6.8.
(51) cf. Eusebius, 1.6.9: "The law and life of our Saviour Jesus Christ
shows itself to be such, being a renewal of the ancient pre-Mosaic religion, in which
Abraham, the friend of God, and his forefathers are shown to have lived."
(52) Eusebius, 1.6.18.
(53) Chrysostom, Against the Jews, Discourse 4, Chp. 6. [Paul W. Harkins,
trans., "Saint John Chrysostom: Discourses Against Judaizing Christians", The
Fathers of the Church, A New Translation, Vol. 68 (Washington D.C.: The Catholic
University Press, 1977), 89].
(54) Ibid., [89-90].
(55) cf. Chrysostom, Homilies on Colossians; cited in Stephin D. Benin,
"Sacrifice as Education in Augustine and Chrysostom," Church History, 52
(March 1983): 18.
(56) cf. Stephin D. Benin, "Sacrifice as Education", 18.
(57) Philo, "On The Special Laws", Book I, Chp. 2, translated by F.H.
Colson, M.A. The Loeb Classical Library, "Philo VII", T.E. Page and
others, eds. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1966), 105: "...I consider
circumcision to be a symbol (sumbolon) of two things most necessary to our well-being. One is the excision of
pleasures which bewitch the mind...The other reason is that a man should know himself and
banish from the soul the grievous malady of conceit."
(58) During the patristic era, the "spiritual" sense of the Old
Testament could either mean the allegorical or the typological sense, or both. The later
division of the "four senses" of Scripture was not yet developed in the
(59) R.P.C. Hanson D.D., Allegory and Event: A Study of the Sources and
Significance of Origens Interpretation of Scripture, (Richmond, VA: John Knox
Press, 1959), 295.
(60) Clement of Alexandria, Paed, 1.2.96ff; cited from Hanson, 295.
(61) Clement of Alexandria, Stromateis, 2.9.4. [John Ferguson, trans.,
"Clement of Alexandria: Stromateis Books One to Three", The Fathers of the
Church, A New Translation, Vol. 85 (Washington D.C.: The Catholic University of
America Press, 1991], 187.
(62) Origen, Contra Celsum, 4.44; cited from Longenecker, 31.
(63) Ibid., 7.20; cited from Hanson, 305.
(64) Origen, Commentary on Romans, 2.14; cited from Hanson, 305.
(65) Origens interpretation of these commands are as follows: (1) the
place mentioned in Exodus 16:29: "what is the place of the
spiritual soul? Its place is justice, truth, wisdom, sanctification; everything which
Christ is the place of the soul." (Homilies on Num. 23:4) and (2) the
burdens mentioned in Jeremiah 17:21: the burdens refer to sins (see Psalm 37:5
and fire (see Exodus 35:3). cf. N.R.M. De Lange, Origen and the Jews: Studies in
Jewish-Christian Relations in Third-Century Palestine, (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1979), 93.
(66) cf. De Lange, 92.
(67) Origen, Homilies on Leviticus, 10.1. [Gary Wayne Barkley, trans.,
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(69) Athanasius, Incarnation of the Word, Chp. 33. [Philip Schaff, D.D.,
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(70) Also, Incarnation, Chp. 35 [54-55]: "But, perhaps, having heard the
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not even this is passed over: it is displayed by the holy men with great plainness. For
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